Ted Steinberg: Interviewed about the history of the lawn mower

Historians in the News

In America, more land is devoted to growing turf grass than any other plant. NASA has even mapped America's lawns from space. But you might be surprised to learn that neither the lawn nor the lawnmower are American at all — they come to us from Britain.

"Edwin Budding invented the lawnmower in 1830," Ted Steinberg, a history professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, told Sunday Morning correspondent Serena Altschul. "He got the idea for the lawnmower from a carpet cutter."

Steinberg wrote a history of the American lawn, called "American Green."

"Americans did inherit the lawn from their British ancestors, as it were, the British aristocracy," he said. "Washington and Jefferson, for example had lawns, attempting to imitate their counterparts in Britain."

Steinberg says the lawnmower created what you might call a grassroots revolution in America.

"First of all, the lawnmower provided the conditions for lawn democracy," he said. "A society where just about everyone could afford to purchase a machine to cut the grass."

Steinberg says that today's mowers are actually not much different than Budding's 19th century design.

"In fact, it is the same design," he said. "And like many mechanical inventions, if the person gets it right the first go-around, it's just a matter of tinkering around the edges in improvement."
Read entire article at CBS News Sunday Morning

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